It’s an interesting question.

Strength training and cycling.  So sure, mad trackies with tree trunk legs spend more time in the gym pushing weights than pedaling circles but that’s different right?  Well, maybe not as much as we once thought.  Traditionally most cyclists considered weight training as something that might be attempted for a block of 6 or 8 weeks in the off season almost as pre-base prep phase.  Once done it was then left for another year.  It was considered an OR activity, never an AND activity.

leg training for cycling

However, things are changing.  It is now considered ok for resistance training and endurance training to be added together.  Yes, that’s right.  You can lift AND ride at the same time.  And if you do there is likely to be benefits.  But here is the kicker – you have to do it right!

[quote_right]congratulations welcome to weaksville, population – you.[/quote_right]Once upon a time we simply believed that endurance athletes should head into the gym and do endurance style work outs right? WRONG.  What is the point?  The low weight, high reps is no longer plate du jour for enduros.  All you get is not very strong because the weights aren’t heavy enough, and super, super tired because you have exhausted your muscle glycogen, reduced your rate of force production and actually reduced your protein synthesis from one million reps.  In English, congratulations welcome to weaksville, population – you.  It’s no wonder you can’t finish your long rides when this action is at work in your body.

Conversely you also don’t want to go out and lift massively heavy things until you pin yourself under something – we are talking training to failure here.  There is no evidence that supports this as providing any benefit for endurance athletes.  Anecdotally I have lived this one too.  Riding was pointless for several days post workout.

Rachel Edwards cycling

You don’t want to get big either.  Every cyclist worth his weight in power bars knows power to weight ratio is where it is at – so getting massive is not on the desired list.  Also at a cellular level getting big increases the diffusion distance from the exterior to the interior of the cell and this leads to compromised transport of glucose and free fatty acids.  That means you get tired. It is also thought the larger muscle could lead to a potentially reduced removal of excessive heat from the working muscle in high level endurance events and ultra endurance events.  Something else we want to avoid.  So no hypertrophy goals for us.

Specifically you want most of your increases in strength to come from increases in rate of force production, tendon stiffness and maximal voluntary contraction as well as improvements in economy of movement.  In a nutshell that is power rather than pure strength.  It is also functional power.

So what does that mean?

Consider power based strength training.  If you don’t know what you are doing find someone who can help you.  It is important to know that depending on what types of exercises, amount of weight, reps, timing of the lift and the time in between all has an effect on the outcome of your work.  Strength training in the wrong way actually has the ability to make your cycling worse.  You will need to decrease your riding volume so you don’t train your way into fatigue, studies indicate around 30%.  You also want to separate endurance efforts and resistance training by a day. This won’t be acceptable for everyone, but for those of us on time limits it is pretty attractive.  Get more from less.

Fitness trainer

Personally, I have a guy.  Through his instruction I now do a combination of Olympic style lifting and a series of super specific and somewhat weird exercises to target individual my functional weakness.  It’s been a bit of a short cut for me this season.  When I have missed rides and many training sessions due to a non-bike focused yet (yep they happen!) the strength training filled the gap.  Sure I am not at peak fitness, but it has enabled me to get pretty close on very little time investment.

The biggest thing with managing riding and gym work together is nutrition, that’s a whole other article!  Did you know DOMS can be defeated with the right nutrition at the right time?  How did I take 20 years to learn this!

Till next time, ride bikes and lift heavy things!